Hartley set to hear his fate
March 26, 2012
England hooker Dylan Hartley was cited in the wake of his side's Six Nations victory over Ireland earlier this month © Getty Images
England hooker Dylan Hartley will appear before an independent disciplinary panel in London on Tuesday to face a charge of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during their Six Nations clash earlier this month.
The 26-year-old Northampton captain, who won his 39th Test cap in England's impressive 30-9 victory over the Irish at Twickenham, faces the prospect of the second major suspension of his professional career and being sidelined for the tour of South Africa last this year.
The offence carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, which would put Hartley's participation in England's summer tour in doubt. The mid-range punishment for biting is 18 weeks while there is a ban of 24-plus weeks at the top end in the International Rugby Board's disciplinary sanctions table. The maximum sanction is a four-year punishment.
Hartley, who boosted his British & Irish Lions chances with a string of strong performances in this year's battle for northern hemisphere supremacy, previously served a 26-week ban for gouging in 2007 after being cited for making contact with the eye areas of Wasps players Jonny O'Connor, James Haskell and Joe Worsley during a Premiership fixture. Hartley pleaded not guilty on all three counts, but a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel found him guilty in relation to the offences against Haskell and O'Connor, but he was cleared on the Worsley charge.
The incident with Ferris occurred during the 28th minute of England's comfortable win, which saw them secure second place in the Six Nations table after an encouraging campaign under interim coach Stuart Lancaster. Television footage did not capture the alleged incident but Ferris and some of his team-mates complained to Welsh referee Nigel Owens in the immediate aftermath.
Owens said he had not seen anything but told captains Chris Robshaw and Rory Best: "I have an accusation of biting, a clear mark on the finger. I did not see something. If I do it will be dealt with severely, which would be a red card.
"It could be dealt with afterwards. If it is seen it will be dealt with. I did not see it. Have a word. Nothing like that takes place in this game. I can only deal with what I see. Have a word please. I have had a look. Unless I can see it, it's been dealt with, okay?"
Owens then spoke to Ferris while the Ulster forward received treatment, saying: "I have done all I can. It has been noted. If I don't see it I can't do nothing about it. It has been spoken about and dealt with.''
The charge of an act "contrary to good sportsmanship" against Hartley was brought by the Italian citing commissioner Alberto Recaldini after reviewing footage. But Recaldini incorrectly documented that the incident took place in the 23rd minute, when it fact it occurred in the 28th minute. Press Association Sport understands Recaldini has acknowledged the mistake in his report and it is unlikely to lead to the case being dismissed on a technicality.
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